It’s great to have people around you who care about you enough to “check in” on you in the midst of a faith crisis. I’ve been lucky enough to have people like that in my life. At first I really needed it. It was important to me.
But there comes a point where you want to stop being labeled as the guy who’s struggling.
I haven’t been for a while now. I feel like I’m in a decent place. It’s one that’s much more ambiguous and subject to a roller coaster of emotions, but I’m okay with that.
But I still get the occasional check-in. Mostly because I’m no longer bound by the belief that my eternal salvation is dependent on strict weekly church attendance, holding a calling and going home teaching. That kind of approach to Mormonism kind of automatically puts you in the “we’re concerned about him” zone.
I’m starting to wish there was some sign I could hang around my neck that says “Really, I’m okay.”
So, this my new faith manifesto:
I’ve will no longer self-identify, either in my own head or to others, as “struggling” or in any sort of a “faith crisis.”
I’m not struggling, and I’m not in a crisis.
I’m just on a new path. It may not be the same path you’re on. And you know what? That’s okay. I’ll still put my arm around you at church on Sunday (if I’m not off camping or sleeping in because really? 8:30 a.m. sacrament meeting?)
My “testimony” (whatever that really means) is as valid and strong as anyone else in my ward, stake, or the church. That it is different and unique from many others does not make it inferior. That it is malleable and changes over time does not make it better or worse than your written-in-stone, unshakable testimony.
I will stop apologizing or feeling skittish or like I’m walking on eggshells when talking about difficult aspects of my religion. I embrace my religion, warts and all. I do not gloss over the bad parts like an embarrassed family member covering up for wayward siblings.
I will acknowledge my privilege as a white, straight, male, American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the inherent ease of membership that privilege brings me. Although I mostly suck at it, I will try to use my privilege to help others who, through no fault of their own, do not enjoy the same privilege I do.
I will stop going out of my way to always meet others on their terms. I will expect others to, when appropriate, meet me on my terms instead.
I will be grateful for uncertainty, relish in ambiguity and reject black-and-white framing in almost all things.
I will create and maintain separate boxes for “religion” and “the gospel” and treat them accordingly, and not apologize for doing so.
I will embrace a new discipleship of Jesus Christ that includes rejecting ecclesiastical authority when/where appropriate, loving service more than rote attendance, and embracing those who are the most outcast of our religious society. I will dine with Mormonism’s publicans and stand in defense Mormonism’s harlots.
In embracing this new approach to faith that seems foreign to so many who share my religion, I will make no apologies for being a “radical” Mormon in the same sense that Jesus of Nazareth was a radical Jew.
But most of all, I will be humble and recognize that I don’t have all the answers and likely never will. I will embrace love, compassion and kindness as the answers to most of life’s difficult questions.
Thank you for this. It feels good to be your company, the one that has had to somewhat violently separate religion and gospel. I will see you at dinner time.
Spot on! Love this, and thank you James Patterson!
I’m likely newer to this faith transition than you are, its been almost 2 years since I started. I appreciate you sharing this journey and how you are feeling now. I’m wondering if leaving your faith crisis label behind might have some unintended costs. I see benefits to openly identifying as someone whose faith is different, even if some people view that position as something less than. It seems important to me to be open as person who has lots of unanswered questions, as a person who doesn’t see faith as simple, so that I can be a beacon of hope for those who are going through the very raw and critical emotions of feeling alone and misunderstood.
I feel much more comfortable in my unbelief, and I’m rebuilding new beliefs in wholly unconventional ways now. I’m personally feeling less like a struggler because I don’t have to react to the shallow paradigms so prevalent around me. However, I still see benefits in self identifying as a person in faith crisis and transition, just so I can be a light to others who are going through very hard challenges, who need my empathy and a realization that they are ok and that someone else understands them.
Hope, that’s a completely valid approach, just not one I’m taking right now. Thanks for your comment.
You’re not alone my friend. Thanks for giving voice to how a fast growing wave of people feel and working to knock down a LDS cultural ideology that a “strong testimony” is an attribute and those who don’t need nurturing…..no, we don’t. And no, a strong testimony is not an attribute…thanks to Google, it also means you place feeling above hard evidence, which means you can be manipulated.
Amen! Thanks for sharing James. This hit home for me. It’s amazing how enlightening it can be to accept that you don’t and never will have all the answers, and that’s ok. I feel that I have had to be more reliant on The Divine then I ever felt being an unquestioning member of the church. I think we’ve become a little too comfortable with what answers we do/might have and our interpretation of those. I’ll take the good that our leaders have to offer but I won’t put all my eggs in that basket. It’s just disappointment waiting to happen.
Very nice James Patterson! My hope is that more Mormons who are “struggling” can embrace your viewpoint and that more of the judgy Mormons will cut more slack for people one various faith paths in the church. I feel hopeful when I see articles like yours move through my newsfeed.
I really appreciated this post. There are so few of us trying to walk this middle road (somewhere between resignation and truth-claim believing membership) that there are lots of ambiguities and difficulties to work out. Still, I have found it more fruitful than uncomfortable thus far and continue to walk this path. Maybe I’ll think different after my first temple recommend interview post- faith transition…
But make no mistake, there are dozens of us now!!!
“Oh, I like the radical Jew line. I often think of Martin Luther when doctrinal issues are raised and think of how we praise him, yet martyr his contemporaries. RIP John Dehlin.
Why did Joseph Smith embrace polygamy? Why did Brigham Young teach Adam-God? Who cares. I’m too busy trying to be more loving and compassionate with the Mormon publicans and harlots.”
Reposted & replied here: http://goo.gl/J0mkss
What a spectacular manifesto! Thanks James, that was great.
There is one line that I take issue with, "I will make no apologies for being a “radical” Mormon in the same sense that Jesus of Nazareth was a radical Jew." Maybe you don't know the difference between the restored gospel and the Pharisaic law that was practiced when Christ was around but there is a big difference. Christ was trying to fix a broken system. We now have a system set in place by Christ himself, run by prophets that he himself calls.
You are completely right, Christ was radical according to the Sanhedrin but if you are radical now you are radical to Christs church. Your carefree brand of Mormonism sounds really nice, but it isn't what Christ teaches, or what his ordained leaders do. Sorry, I don't think you get to make the rules, and the comparison of yourself with Christ is offensive.
It seems, James, that Eric Stout is trying to illustrate your point.
I am curious, Eric, if you are sincere or sarcastic when you say that James’s “carefree brand of Mormonism sounds really nice”? It isn’t really carefree. In fact, he specifically says that it’s subject to “a roller coaster of emotions.” But he’s certainly emphasizing different cares than he previously thought were important. So if you’re being sarcastic, then you’re not really listening to what he said.
If you’re being sincere, and you DO think that James’s brand of Mormonism sounds really nice, then why should we hold onto a brand of Mormonism that doesn’t sound as nice?
That is a good question, Andrew, I am being sarcastic but also think it is a true statement. The point being made in the article, as far as I understood it, is that the author has decided that he is okay with living Mormonism the way that seems good to him. Do the bits he likes and ignore the ones he doesn’t, for example “I still get the occasional check-in. Mostly because I’m no longer bound by the belief that my eternal salvation is dependent on strict weekly church attendance, holding a calling and going home teaching.”
This is what I was referring too. He has released himself from the “Bounds” of church service. It would be very nice to just sit back and do nothing in the church, but that isn’t what the Lord has asked of us. He has asked us to serve. So yes, his view of Mormonism is nice. You get the salvation without much of the work. Win-Win right? Well I guess you get some pesky ward members up in your business but other than that you’re golden!
Eric, if you can’t see that what you’re doing is the precise equivalent of counting how many steps I take on the Sabbath, I can’t really help you.
James, what a great post! As you probably know, my past relationship with the church is checkered, at best. But in my 30s I examined my relationship with Mormonism and had to admit that it was all about pleasing others, guilt, but almost nothing to do with my relationship with Jesus Christ. Contrary to popular opinion, it requires a huge leap of faith to admit knowing nothing and putting faith completely in The Lord. Since then I have been incredibly blessed and feel a sense of love and peace previously missing in my life. I read your comments often and appreciate the courage it takes to live in the question-if that makes sense. Take care, and my best to your family as well.